Car technology can make zero road toll a reality: AMA President
Advances in car safety technology mean achieving a zero road toll is now within the nation’s grasp, AMA President Professor Brian Owler has told a road safety conference.
Urging government and consumers to demand that the latest life-saving equipment be fitted as standard to all new cars, Professor Owler told the Australasian Road Safety Conference on the Gold Coast that although motorists needed to drive with greater care, the widespread adoption of proven technologies that improved car safety and mitigated human error was “the future of road safety”.
“It is the game changer that mitigates our human faults,” he said. “It is the tool we have to truly move towards zero fatalities and serious injuries on our roads.”
Earlier this year the AMA and the Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) jointly called for autonomous emergency braking (AEB) – in which the brakes are automatically applied if the driver fails to take action to avoid an impending collision – to be fitted to all new cars.
Evidence indicates the technology cuts the incidence of rear-end collisions by more than 38 per cent.
Professor Owler, who is the public face of New South Wales’ successful Don’t Rush road safety campaign, told the Conference that developing safer cars did not lessen the need to improve driver behaviour.
He took particular aim at what he saw as societal acceptance of risky behaviour on the roads.
“There are cultural issues, and even rites of passage, that make some young people think that speeding and disobeying the road rules is something tough, something cool or something to be admired.
“There are no survivors of road trauma who think this way.”
The AMA President said compulsory seatbelt and drink-driving laws, complemented by education and awareness campaigns, had shown that modifying driver behaviour was possible, though the process was lengthy and difficult.
And, he added, improving driver behaviour and choices did not eliminate the capacity for human error, which contributed to 90 per cent of crashes.
Professor Owler said people should not die, or endure life-long pain and impairment, because of a split-second mistake, which was why there should be widespread adoption of proven life-saving technology in cars.
Car companies are fitting AEB as standard equipment in Europe, the United States and Japan, and the AMA President said there was no reason why Australia should be left behind.
There have been objections that making AEB mandatory will increase the cost of new cars – industry estimates an additional cost of up to $200 per vehicle.
But Professor Owler said this was little price to pay for technology that would save lives, and asked why Australian life should be valued any less than one in Europe or North America.
“Australians,” he declared, “should be driving the safest vehicles on our roads”.
ANCAP aims to pressure car companies to fit AEB in Australia vehicles by making it impossible from 2018 for a car to get a five-star crash rating without the technology.
Professor Owler said consumers needed to exert similar pressure.
“The fastest way to have vehicles with these features as standard is through consumer demand,” he said, urging large fleet purchasers in particular to demand advanced life-saving equipment as standard in their vehicles.
The AMA President said it was not good enough to aim simply at reducing road fatalities and injuries.
Advances in technology meant the elimination of road trauma was a practical goal.
“There is no acceptable number of deaths, as there is no acceptable number of serious injuries,” he said. “Towards zero is not an aspirational target. For Australia, we must make zero the reality. We have the ability to do this.”